Ronald “Khalis” Bell, co-founder of the beloved funk and R&B group Kool & the Gang, died on Wednesday, September 9th, at the age of 68. The news was confirmed by the band's publicist, who reported Bell passed away at home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell, by his side. No cause of death has been disclosed.
Bell formed the group Kool & the Gang alongside his brother Robert "Kool" Bell in 1964 in Jersey City, New Jersey. A self-taught musician, he wrote and produced many of the band's hits, including "Cherish," "Jungle Boogie," and "Celebration," which he says he wrote after picking up a Bible in a hotel room.
“I was reading Scripture where the creator’s gonna create and made an announcement that he’s gonna create this human thing to angels, and the angels were celebrating him for doing so, and that’s also where the idea came from,” Bell told Rolling Stone of the song’s inspiration. “Three Dog Night had songs about ‘Celebrate’ but there was never a song about a cel-e-bra-tion. Everyone around the world, come on, there’s a celebration every second of our lives. Somewhere, someone is always celebrating something.”
Throughout their career, the group won two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and in 2018, the Bell brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The group also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015.
At the time of his death, Bell was working on a solo project called Kool Baby Brotha Band, as well as a series of animated shorts called “Kool TV,” about their childhood and career.
Bell is survived by his wife and their ten children. The family have asked that in lieu of flowers, fans donate to the Boys and Girls Club of America in his memory.